Six years ago I wandered into a bar in Kuki, Japan. I was giving Aya some alone time with her parents so I decided to set out on my own. Feeling a little overconfident and wanting a sense of independence and adventure, I hit the streets loaded with about ten Japanese words in my vocabulary and a digital translator dictionary that I had no idea how to work.
The bar I chose didn’t have pictures or numbers on the menu, just kanji symbols. Trying to read those is like trying to crack the Mayan Code for me. I had already ordered a beer though, so leaving was out of the question. I had to stay and order something. When the bar tender came to check on me, I confidently pointed to two random items on the menu and smiled. Remember, I was seeking adventure.
Of the two things I ordered, I could only identify one of them. It was a nice serving of tuna sashimi. Mmm, delicious. The second dish however, I had no idea what it was. I just knew I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to be that guy though. That American guy that goes to Japan and pretends like he knows what he’s doing only to take a nibble of something and then leave it uneaten. So I ate all of it.
When I got home, I told my tale and described what I had eaten, but no one could offer a valid suggestion. Years had passed, and anytime I met someone who was Japanese I’d describe it to them, and again, I could not find an answer to the mysterious food I ate. That is until now…
The other day while gawking at food at the grocery store across the street from my in-laws, something caught my eye.
“Aya! Aya! Come here, what is this?! This is what I ate at the bar! This is the mystery food!” I asked excitedly.
She came quickly with matched enthusiasm and said, “Oh wow, How cool! Let me see! Oh… This? Are you sure?”
I knew this wasn’t a good sign.
What I ate is called shirako in Japanese. The direct translation is “white children.” Obviously, this info was not enough for me. All I knew is that it was fish related. After doing some digging on the internet, I discovered what I ate was called milt. Essentially, milt, or shirako, is the semen sacs of male fish.
Yep, I ate a full plate of steamed fish sperm…
Maybe some things are better left a mystery.
(To read more about the shenanigans that happened that night, click here.)